Post 5 City Council seat: Chambers announces candidacy

PORTERDALE - Lowell Chambers, watershed director of the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management, has announced his candidacy for the Post 5 seat on the City Council.

Chambers, 52, an engineer who has lived in Porterdale since 2000 and Newton County since 1994, said he decided to run for the seat because he is concerned the town is in danger of losing ground it has gained over the past several years.

"People have approached me for the past several years every time there was an election and said I should run for election," Chambers said. Each time, he said, he declined due to family and professional obligations.

This time, however, Chambers said he sees Porterdale is at a crossroads.

"Recent events in Porterdale have brought to light some serious problems we are having among our leadership," he said. "This time, when some of those same people approached me, I had to make up my mind that this time either the town goes forward or goes backward."

Chambers said his No. 1 goal if elected will be to "restore a cooperative spirit to the City Council, where the individual members can respect one another and cooperate with one another and then work toward mutual goals."

"As long as there are accusations flying and resentment, the town can't make progress," he added.

Chambers is seeking to fill the unexpired term vacated by the resignation of Kay Piper, who resigned Oct. 23 citing health issues and concerns over the direction the financially troubled city is headed. A special election to fill the Post 5 seat is slated for March 17.

Porterdale has experienced dissension among council members over several issues in recent months, including some cost-cutting measures instituted by City Manager Tom Fox in order to make up a budget shortfall.

Fox tendered his resignation last week.

"Basically, the reason I'm resigning is that I respectfully disagree with some of the decisions that the governing body has made this year, and I can no longer serve in the toxic environment created by the elected officials," Fox said last week.

The council has not yet voted to accept his resignation.

In addition, the court clerk ended her employment with Porterdale last week after working for the city for more than four years.

"I'm afraid some of the employees have been the victim of circumstances and haven't been allowed to do the job they need to do," Chambers said.

This will be Chambers' first time seeking public office.

"I really feel like I am responding to the requests of friends and neighbors and others who are interested in the city of Porterdale, because I have no personal ambition in the direction of public office," he said.

Chambers is a native of North Georgia and the son of a United Methodist minister. His educational background includes a master's degree in city planning from Georgia Tech, a bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Georgia, a bachelor of music education degree from UGA, and an associate of fine arts degree from Young Harris College. He is a Georgia registered engineer.

Chambers has previously served as chief engineer with the Atlanta Department of Public Works and design section chief for the Bureau of Drinking Water. He was responsible for a $500 million evaluation and rehabilitation of the Atlanta Sewer system. He has also worked in the private sector in the design and construction of reservoirs, road projects and public and private utilities.

Chambers also serves as a founding member of the Friends of Porterdale and has served as chairman of the town zoning board.

Chambers said he and his wife, Melanie Sheets, moved to Newton County when she began working as a teacher with the Newton County School System. They are the parents of two boys and are active members of First United Methodist Church of Covington.

Alice Queen can be reached at alice.queen@rockdalecitizen.com.